Listen: Rep. John M. Zwach

MPR’s Paul Gruchow interviews U.S. Congressman John M. Zwach on education funding. Topics of discussion include busing and final bill passage.


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SPEAKER 1: Well, first of all, one of the real jobs that I have found here in Washington is to try to get our federal educational funds appropriated before the start of the school year so local administrators, teachers, school boards, and so on know what they're going to get from the federal government. Now, if we go through another veto, then that's going to be delayed and we're going to get way into the school year.

Now, I think it unfortunate that the bill was loaded up in some areas and without some safeguards. But I felt in order to be timely with our federal funds and to get our cancer research, our heart research, our lung and so on, all of the health education work going, that this was a place we had to give. And that's the way I voted. That's the reason I voted that way on that legislation.

SPEAKER 2: One of the main arguments Senator Mansfield was making about that he'll veto was that the Congress had cut equal amounts of funds in other areas of the budget so that they weren't really overspending. As far as the president was concerned in his total budget, they were just reordering priorities somewhat. Did you agree with that?

SPEAKER 1: Well, basically, I agree. For instance, I think I not only agree with it. I practice it. I voted to cut or eliminate the foreign aid. I voted against the space program and the expanded program there. I voted for some cuts in the military procurement bill. I voted for more cuts than this increase represented.

SPEAKER 2: I know that you've disagreed with the president in the past on that question of hew appropriations. I remember back when I was in Washington a vote of that kind.

SPEAKER 1: I voted once before in favor of an override. That was another education bill.

SPEAKER 2: Have you--

SPEAKER 1: You see, I spent a lifetime trying to give opportunity to people, to young folks, learning opportunity. And I have a pretty high priority in that area.

SPEAKER 2: Mhm. Have you carried this view to the president?

SPEAKER 1: Yes, I expressed it to them and to his representatives. And they were here to see me. And of course, we're working on it.

SPEAKER 2: What about the busing issue? What led you to your vote against the bill yesterday?

SPEAKER 1: Well, I think the busing issue is at the present time right across the country is too much heat and not enough light. I'm sort of father of the busing legislation in our state. And busing in our state has been a tremendously important factor. And I think just for the federal government to outlaw busing is taking some positions at the federal level that ought to be optional at the local level.

I'm a strong believer that these decisions, how federal money should be used, ought to be made more at the local level. That's the true partnership of the local federal, state units. I don't think we should dictate everything from Washington. And certainly, we shouldn't try to write it into the constitution.

SPEAKER 2: Congressman Couey was quoted in the newspaper this morning as saying that he thought maybe the bill that was finally passed was unconstitutional. Do you share that view?

SPEAKER 1: Well, it might be. But I would leave that to the courts. But I had a strange feeling yesterday that as I listened to the debate on that bill. And then when I thought of that great man Lincoln on my Republican Party and Jefferson on the Democratic Party, I thought the House of Representatives did not have one of its fine days.

SPEAKER 2: Do you think your position on that bill is going to get you into any political trouble in the sixth district?

SPEAKER 1: I think I can fully defend it. I have to do what I think is right. And then you can forcefully defend it. I've done that for all my life. Do what makes you feel good. Do what you think is right the thing, that you can hold-- you can look at yourself-- you know, you've got to be able to look at yourself each morning when you shave and at least respect what you see there.

SPEAKER 2: Among congressional watchers in Minnesota, you're kind of an interesting Congressman because you're often quite independent in your votes as you were this week. How does that stick with your Republican colleagues?

SPEAKER 1: They would prefer that I conform more. But I put my district, my people, and my convictions first and then my party basically second.


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